Waiting for the southeasterly trades
The MOD 70s in the Transat Jacques Vabre are just in the process of exiting the Doldrums at 4°N with speeds dropping to rare single digits. To get through as quickly as possible, both leader Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air have taken a slight turn to the east and the two boats are now at a similar latitude only that Gavignet and Foxall's boat is some 118 miles further to the east, although this translates to a deficit on the leader of 65 miles, down from 72 miles 24 hours ago.
According to the satellite wind images the big one design tris should be already breaking into the light southwesterlies marking their exit from the Doldrums.
The Multi 50s are currently two thirds of the way between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes, with Yves le Blevec and Kito de Pavant on second placed Actual continuing to eat into the lead of Erwan Leroux and Yann Eliès' FenetreA Cardinal, down to 69 miles from 82 24 hours ago.
While the boats are apparently in the giant band of northeasterly trades currently spanning the eastern Atlantic from the Bay of Biscay down to the Doldrums, due to the Azores high being currently so far north, the trades are far from stable and also lighter than they would normally be. As Yann Elies reported this morning: “It’s a bit surprising because we thought we were getting it easy to the Equator, but there are a lot of squalls, shifts, puffs, lulls and since yesterday the winds have been lighter, 12 knots, and so there is a lull after the hectic race start. There were big squall lines last night, big holes. We lost a little, gained a little."
The Multi 50s are still struggling to shake off the powerful IMOCA 60s with FenetreA Cardinal still only 157 miles ahead of the IMOCA 60 leader.
The IMOCA 60s are currently falling into line, but taking a route south further to the east of the 50ft tris, which, if they maintain it, will see them shave the west side of the Cape Verdes, still 340 miles down the track for them.
While Bernard Stamm and Philippe Legros on the powerful yellow Cheminees Poujoulat were leading yesterday morning, early afternoon yesterday they were overhauled by Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam on PRB. However inevitably the boat that continues to remain threatening are the two Vendee Globe winners Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux on MACIF. 30 miles off the lead yesterday morning, they have now closed to just 10 miles and you have to think the writing is on the wall.
Riou echoed Elies' thoughts about the state of the wind: "It's okay right now, but it is irregular and unstable, so there is a lot of work, you do not get bored. The trade winds are not very strong, below 15-20 knots so unstable. It shifts, it backs and you must adjust the settings of the boat to avoid stopping. We'll see what happens in the middle of the Cape Verdes , it's an option to go through. It is 120° to the wind and there is an option to go below the island but it is lighter just now so that is not easy By 4 -5pm we'll be in more stable winds."
Behind the Class40 have been gybing downwind heading generally southwest away from the Portugese coast.
Out in the lead remains Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye on GDF Suez, but second placed mare sailed by German-French pair Jörg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur has dropped back from 16 miles behind the leader to 44 miles at the latest sched, where conversely third placed Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme on ERDF-Des Pieds et des Mains has recovered some ground from 110 miles off the lead yesterday to 95 at the latest sched. What is evident is that somehow GDF Suez is managing to sail deeper angles downwind than her rivals.
As Pierre Brasseur reported from mare: "We try to keep pace with GDF and hang in there well. The winds east and the seas flatten out and so we will set a bit more sail. We think GDF had a slightly different configuration and so were going better than us. If you get west then you should not have too much trouble with the windshadow of Madeira. We have been careful not to break things in the last few days and so we and the boat are in great shape.”
Behind there remains a difference of opinion about whether to head west or south at this stage. Louis Duc and Stéphanie Alran on Phoenix Europe are doing well holding fifth aboard their relatively ancient Akilaria leading the charge in the south. The western option is the more popular including the likes of WATT & SEA Région Poitou Charentes (Yannick Bestaven/Aurélien Ducroz), Campagne de France (Halvard Mabire/Miranda Merron), Caterham Challenge (Mike Gascoyne/Brian Thompson) and the new Humphreys-designed Vaquita (Christof Petter/Andreas Hanakamp).
The west was clearly working for Campagne de France which has elevated herself from 10th place, 172 miles off the lead yesterday morning to fourth place, 142 miles off first this morning. Miranda Merron reported: "Rather challenging conditions for steering with evil crossed seas, big wind shifts and gusts to 34 knots out of nowhere. The moon has set, almost daylight. Looking forward to lighter breeze, or at least an improved sea state. And drying out the boat and contents, eating regularly etc! We are south of the latitude of Lisbon, the sea water is warm enough, temperature tested every time a wave breaks over the boat."